- Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century ed. by Gail Marshall
From the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, with its first acquisition of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, to the opening of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford in 1879, the nineteenth century was a vital period in the history and formation of Shakespeare as a literary and cultural figure. Gail Marshall’s goal in her comprehensive collection Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century is to demonstrate Shakespeare as “a living presence” and to show the “symbiotic relationship” between Shakespeare and “readers, actors, critics, audience and interpreters” (1–2) during this crucial era. Marshall is keen to show that Shakespeare in the nineteenth century was not just the “darling of civic bodies” but rather that he “belonged just as much to the ordinary people of Britain who used his voice to contest contemporary power distribution” (2). Because this journal focuses on Shakespeare in performance, I will give more attention to those components of this rich collection that pertain to performance concerns.
In addition to many innovative chapters discussed below, Marshall’s collection thoroughly covers the basics, like Christopher Decker’s chapter on “Shakespeare editions” which distils material from over eight hundred editions into a readable chapter-length study that shows how Shakespeare “was absorbed into the mass-market enterprise of nineteenth-century commercial publishing” (16). Mark Hollingsworth builds on this publishing industry in his chapter on “Shakespeare Criticism,” covering the vastly growing field of Shakespeare study in the period, including Shakespeare societies and the development of academic and leisure study of Shakespeare, through such figures as A.C. Bradley, Mary Cowden Clarke, F. J. Furnivall, Anna Jameson, Charles and Mary Lamb, Algernon [End Page 326] Swinburne, and Oscar Wilde. Hollingsworth also contributed the appendix on nineteenth-century works about Shakespeare, where he provides a short summary of the major critical works as well as brief biographical details about authors, from the Bowdlers to Oscar Wilde. One might wonder why this material is also covered in a separate chapter, though the appendix does allow one to find details about works and authors more quickly than reading through a discursive chapter.
Several chapters look at Shakespeare in various forms of writing, such as Gail Marshall’s “Shakespeare and Fiction,” which examines the influence of Shakespeare’s characters, plots, and language from Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy. According to Marshall’s analysis, Shakespeare frequently “loomed forebodingly as one necessarily to be confronted” (99), particularly by women writers seeking their own voice. The chapter “Women and Shakespeare” by Georgianna Ziegler further considers Shakespeare’s role in women’s education, from family readings to domestic performance. Ziegler focuses mainly on middle-class women’s intersections with Shakespeare, including reading and study practices, and their use of Shakespeare’s heroines as role models. Philip Shaw and Gail Marshall’s “Shakespeare and Poetry” explores the complicated relationship between Shakespeare and Romantic and Victorian poets, both as an influence and as a figure of legacy, but also as a model writer who was able to “bridge the gap between private and public spaces” (125). Kathryn Prince’s “Shakespeare in the Periodicals” focuses on the wide variety of readers who were able to encounter Shakespeare, often for the first time, as a figure of education for young girls and boys, and as a working-class hero or “icon of English masculinity” (60). Prince shows that Shakespeare was often connected to current events, helping to make Shakespeare more of a contemporary, in touch with the working class in particular.
A number of essays in this collection focus on various geographical manifestations of nineteenth-century Shakespeare. Frederick Burwick’s “Shakespeare and Germany” looks mainly at the “Germanizing of Shakespeare,” which resulted in establishing his plays “in the literature of the nation” (314), and culminated in the lineup of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller as German national poets. John Stokes’s “Shakespeare in Europe” argues that Shakespeare was both an inspiration and a medium for European theatre in the period. Most Europeans knew Shakespeare as a “translated foreigner,” but Stokes...